Active Voice: 10 ways to navigate office politics positively

The term “office politics” is often equated with negative behaviour like “backstabbing”, spreading malicious rumours, and “sucking up” to the right people. Love it or loathe it, “office politics” is a fact of life in any organisation. Practising “positive” politics enables you to further yours and your team's interests fairly and appropriately, while achieving greater productivity and building more trust; being alert to ”negative” politics helps you to avoid becoming a victim while others take advantage.

We introduce 10 key points to consider in relation to “office politics” to help you navigate it positively; opting out of it will only hinder your career progression.

  1. There is no escaping the fact that politics exists wherever there are people, due to differing values, motivations and contexts.
  2. Frequently junior staff don’t yet realise that politics exist.
  3. Negative office politics can have profound negative consequences for both organisations and individuals.
  4. Office politics can be positive, leading to greater organisational cohesion, speedier decision making, increased trust and action.
  5. It is often seen as the informal way missions are accomplished and decisions are made.
  6. It’s really about why you think someone is doing something, rather than simply what they are doing ie. the context.
  7. Beliefs shape behaviour which influences other people’s behaviour, which reinforces beliefs.
  8. Context is everything, we may think we are apolitical but that’s because we know our motives.
  9. Everyone is a political “animal” of sorts; this is a simplistic way of thinking about it – fox, owl, mule and sheep.
  10. Four key skill areas provide a focus for developing increased political intelligence: communication, networking, influencing and - anything else that falls outside of these categories - something termed “factor X”.

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